Thursday, April 18, 2013

Glee and Guns and Schools and Mental Health and all of it

So I've had a few ideas in my head that I wanted to write about recently here on the blog, but they all got knocked aside last night.  Sunday night, a virus raged through the family, sparing no one and laughing maniacally at me as I lay crumpled on the floor in the bathroom, just to save Lee from having to wake up to me getting up AGAIN.  Monday dawned, and the virus retreated, but not before depleting me in a way I have no been since I hiked three hours in the mountains of Guatemala along centuries-old pathways on what was described as a "gentle walk" but really reflected something akin to 7000+ feet of elevation covered without water, food, and almost breaks.  But I digress.

So last night I was still in recovery mode, plopped on the sofa and plodding through my shows - my Stories! - on the DVR.  First up, the rest of the Community from last week.  Then Parks & Recreation.  Laugh, laugh, laugh!  Then I started in on Glee.

To be honest, I have watched Glee since season 1, and the first season was really well done.  The second season started poorly, and then improved.  It had one standout episode that I now judge all the other episodes by (and no, I'm not talking about the episode with "Teenage Dream" though that is my favorite song they've done because the arrangement is freaking amazing).  The third season was really quite bad.  This season I wanted to see what would happen when many of their mainline players had graduated.  The dreaded 90210 syndrome.  What do you do when your stars age out of your show by your show's very premise?

The episode started like many others, fun, frothy, weird, musical number, GLEE namecard.  As an hourlong program, you can rely on First Act - setup & music, Second Act - action & music, Third Act - action, occasional twist, & music, and Final Act - moral of the story, frequently told  The other "good" episode featured a big SHOCK in the second Act, and so did last night.  Last night, at the beginning of the second Act, the kids gathered in the Choir Room and were starting to get ready for their "lesson" when shots were heard in the hallway.  This has been a topic of much discussion in preceding months, of course, but as it turns out, imagining it and watching it are two very different things.  I felt pushed down into the sofa, and I watched these non-kids do truly wonderful acting as terribly, horribly frightened children in a dark classroom trying to keep it together.  All I could think about was "Oh God, my little babies...they would be so scared..." mixed together with the out-of-body commentary as to who is doing a good job and who wasn't.  Our favorite, Brittany, crouched on a toilet seat with her hands bracing her in the stall, and tears running down her face and dropping into the toilet below her - possibly the most convincing thing she has done on the show.  Teachers, quietly as possible, hauling someone who wants to be a hero into a smaller interior room whispering to him that he is endangering everyone there with him. 

It was a nightmare and I could not stop watching.  Coupled by the fact that I managed to watch it hours after the Senate failed to pass any kind of gun reform made it extra nightmarish.  Lee came in while I was mid-Act and wondered why I was sitting on the couch crying about Glee.  Fair question.

And then.  THEN.  Then they took what was so promising, turned it over, and ended it in a way I'm sure the showrunners thought was Noble and Important and Sent A Message.  Well, FAIL, idiots.

There was no one shooting at people in the school.  Instead, the truth of the story is that a scared student (and recurring character) who has Down Syndrome had brought her father's gun to school because she is close to aging out of school and she is scared about the future and wanted to protect herself.  She dropped it while trying to hand it to her teacher and mentor while explaining and her fear, and the drop caused it to fire.  WHAT?  So, instead of really addressing the issue of person to person violence and the ability to purchase weapons without background checks, or steal weapons from people (parents), suddenly this show is saying, "Developmentally disabled kids do things like this."  OH. MY. GOD.

I was incensed.  I remember being a teenager.  Even while learning (and I learned well) I still had foolish black-and-white opinions about things that I have completely reversed with maturity, higher education, living, and common sense.  No teenager has maturity, higher education, living and common sense at their disposal.  They have Ideas.  They have Hormones.  They have Opinions.  I did.  I wasn't all that atypical.  And now, maybe some of them (the show is, after all, geared towards young adults) think that developmentally disabled children mainstreamed into public schools can't be trusted to not do something like bring a gun into school. 

I recognize that I have a filter that not many other people have on this.  But seriously, blame the kid who isn't like the others?  That is just sloppy, lazy, thoughtless storytelling.

It is hard enough for our kids to be mainstreamed into schools.  Connor sort-of is, and at first I feared daily for him.  Not because I feared violence, but because I feared that he would be teased.  I worry that his brothers will be teased for having a disabled brother, as if that was something they caused.  Connor's school has it's strengths and it's weaknesses, but one thing I have noted and become more comfortable with is that the students embrace him and his classmates wholeheartedly.  A few years ago, the younger sister of a schoolmate (not a classmate - someone else who goes to the same school, that's all) made him a valentine because she saw him every day at drop off.  When her mother asked her who she wanted to make cards for, he was in her list.  I got the card and cried like a baby.  I emailed her mother and thanked her profusely for the card and told her how wonderful her little daughter was.  Kids are pretty nice.  Teenagers are still unknown to me at this point.  They were mean sometimes when I was a teenager.  I was mean sometimes as a teenager. 

Glee, I may be done with you once and for all now.  You have taken a show about keeping the arts in education, and how creative teenagers are put down and bullied at school, and turned it into a personal soapbox were the soap now muddies your own messages.  You just left it there - she did it, no one knows but the teacher who covered for her and lost her job as a result, and left a terrible taste in my mouth about how you handle members of the special needs community.  Up until now, you have been an ally of the special needs community, but I think you did all of us an enormous disservice with the episode "Shooting Stars". 

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